California has one of the most iconic and recognizable state flags in the country. Featuring a prominent bear with the words “California Republic,” it’s proudly displayed by residents of the Golden State. While you may have seen California’s state flag, however, there are probably some things you don’t know about it. Below are five fun facts about California’s state flag, some of which may surprise you.
#1) Adopted in 1911
Although it’s gone through several design changes, the first official California state flag was adopted in 1911. During that year, the California State Legislature passed a law declaring the Bear Flag as its official state flag. Governor Hiram Johson signed the law into effect, thereby paving the way for California’s modern-day state flag.
#2) The Bear Was Inspired By a Real Bear
The bear in California’s state flag was inspired by a real bear. Known as Monarch, it was a grizzly bear held in captivity at a California zoo. Monarch moved around throughout his life. He was housed at the Woodwards Gardens in San Francisco, after which he was moved to the Golden Gate Park. In 1911 — the same year when California adopted its first official state flag — Monarch passed. His memory will forever live on in California’s state flag.
#3) One of Only Four State Flags That Doesn’t Feature Blue
California’s state flag is one of just four state flags that doesn’t feature the color blue. The other states on this list include Alabama, New Mexico and Maryland. Nonetheless, California’s state flag is still quite colorful. It features five colors: white, old glory red, maple sugar, seal and Irish green. The seal color is used to denote the bear, Monarch, whereas old glory red is used to denote the single star in the upper-left corner.
#4) The Star Symbolizes Freedom
According to a statement by the California Military Department, the star displayed in the upper-left corner of California’s state flag symbolizes freedom. The first design actually didn’t have a star. Rather, the star was added to California’s state flag in 1836. Nonetheless, it’s used to symbolize freedom.
#5) Ranks as the 13th Most Popular State Flag
To say California’s state flag is popular would be an understatement. Several years ago, the North American Vexillological Association conducted a survey to determine which state has the most popular flag. Researchers found that of 72 U.S. and Canadian state flags, California’s state flag ranked 13th.